This has pretty much been expected since November, but manager Dave Roberts on Sunday intimated that the Dodgers starting pitching rotation is accounted for, at least to open the season.
From the beat reporters at Camelback Ranch after Sunday’s game:
#Dodgers Dave Roberts said Tony Gonsolin is "projecting" to be the 5th starter to open the season (following Buehler, Urias, Kershaw, Heaney). Tyler Anderson will be in secondary starter role early to give multiple innings. David Price yet to pitch in a game this spring— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 27, 2022
Dave Roberts said Tony Gonsolin is leading the pack to be the Dodgers’ fifth starter and Andrew Heaney will start in the first rotation turn. Said he’s talked to Tyler Anderson about being a piggyback bulk arm when needed. David Price isn’t built up right now.— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) March 27, 2022
The Dodgers pursued Heaney early in free agency, signing the left-hander to a one-year, $8.5 million deal on November 10. That alone was going to get Heaney some sort of runway, regardless of how he’s pitched in his all of two exhibition games to date.
Heaney has not looked like much at all so far in the Cactus League, allowing 14 of his 29 batters faced to reach base, with 10 scoring. That included five runs on Sunday, when the White Sox hit the left-hander around for three doubles and a home run. But Roberts instead focused on the four strikeouts, and at least opening the fourth inning, though he didn’t retire his lone batter faced in that frame.
“Andrew being able to get into the fourth inning I thought was a positive. There were some good throws in there, some things he’s got to work on which he knows,” Roberts told Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA after the game. “With Andrew, we talked about trying to command that breaking ball, and learn a new grip. Earlier on there were some good throws, some swing-and-miss with the breaking ball, then he left some breaking balls up. For him to be convicted with that is something. Obviously the fastball plays.”
Heaney threw 60 pitches on Sunday, all with Will Smith behind the plate for the first time in game action after pitching to Tony Wolters on Tuesday.
Gonsolin has the most upside of the group and deserves the shot, especially if he’s healthy and pitching like 2020 and not last season when shoulder inflammation sidelined him twice for long stints.
Tyler Anderson signed a guaranteed deal of his own, for one year and $8 million, but at least for now wasn’t afforded a spot in the starting rotation. Maybe that’s a function of his relatively late start date after signing on March 18. The left-hander looked excellent in his one spring game, striking out seven of his 12 batters faced on Thursday, allowing one run in three innings.
The reality of this is that all three are expected to pitch meaningful innings for the Dodgers in 2022, even if for Anderson it means in relief for his first few times out. It’s going to take several arms to fill games beyond Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and Clayton Kershaw. Especially in the early part of the season, when a large chunk of starting pitchers won’t be fully stretched out to pitch deep into games because of the truncated spring.
If this plan does come to fruition, with Heaney and Gonsolin starting the first turn through the rotation — presumably, the two games against the Twins on April 12-13 in Minnesota — it’s important to remember that’s the rotation for now. It will change often throughout the year, and if the last few seasons have taught us anything, it’s that trying to project scheduled starting pitchers more than a few days in advance is a fool’s errand.